Does a Chiropractor Need to Crack My Back?
If you were to stop and ask someone on the street, “What does a chiropractor do?” you might hear them say that a “chiropractor cracks peoples’ backs.” But is that really the truth? Is cracking your back all a chiropractor does?
What Causes the Cracking Noise?
There are three joints to each of your 33 vertebrae – the disk is the big one in the middle, sandwiched between a facet joint on each side. The facet joints are two bony knobs that line up along the back of your spine. The facets are the ones that pop.
The pop happens when your joint surfaces are separated quickly, creating a vacuum inside the joint capsule. The cracking pulls gas out of the joint capsule liquid. While separating your joint surfaces may be therapeutic to the joint, it’s my contention that the popping or cracking serves no therapeutic purpose but has a calming effect for patients who hear the “pop.”
What Does Cracking Do to Your Back?
The pop lets you know that your joints moved. Conversely, if your joint doesn’t pop, the joints didn’t move fast enough to make that sound. Sometimes, I’ll be adjusting someone’s back and they may not hear the pop, but I know that I’ve still manipulated their joint enough to move it and relieve some pressure, which may have been causing them some pain or discomfort.
There are a variety of other techniques that I use to treat your back pain instead of cracking your back. For the lower back, I most often use orthopedic blocks to take the torque out of your pelvis and level it out so everything can stack up properly on top of that. The blocks are triangular leather wedges/cushions that I place under each of your hips, are typically more effective than other techniques, and are easier on the patient.
When a patient says to me, “I really think you should crack my back,” the orthopedic blocks will generally take care of that issue.
I also use orthopedic blocks for traction to stretch out your spine by placing the blocks in a certain position and pressing on your sacrum. I ask my patients to take a few deep breaths and this treatment takes about 30 seconds.
In rare cases, another technique that I use is side postures, where I put one hand on one hip to gently twist your body to cause a pop.
I also do mobilization with low force on the lower spine for my patients. I have them lie face down, hold on the adjustment table, pull with their arms to stretch out their back, then I gently push on their vertebrae while I’m manually bending their knee. That also relieves some pressure.
Finally, I don’t want to give the impression that I do not or will not pop your back, but I want you to know that I offer a variety of alternative treatments.
Find Out More About Treating Back Pain
Now that you know the answers to “does a chiropractor need to crack my back?,” let’s set up an initial consultation to discuss your medical history, determine what first caused your back pain, and how it can be treated.